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Taking the time to understand customer engagement can have a significant impact on a retailer's bottom line. This was the primary message during the "Profiting From Customer Engagement" education session on day two of the NACS Show.
"Companies that understand customer satisfaction and embrace it stand to perform better both financially and culturally," said Brian Rutter, director of marketing for NACS, the Association for Convenience & Fuel Retailing. To demonstrate this point, he introduced two speakers -- a consultant with customer satisfaction data and a convenience store owner with real-life experience.
John Goodman, vice chairman of Customer Care Measurement & Consulting, debunked a popular myth that a retailer's employees cause the most customer dissatisfaction. In fact, he said a company's sales, products, processes and even its customers do -- sometimes by their own error. However, he maintained that it is always the retailer's responsibility to educate customers and employees alike on policies and services.
Goodman presented data to quantify increased accessibility and resolution in customer engagement and presented attendees with a checklist for action. He advised them to "deliver psychic pizza," a way to connect with customers by anticipating what they want.
Gus Olympidis, president and CEO of Family Express Corp., a 60-store convenience chain based in Valparaiso, Ind., admitted that addressing customer engagement can seem far-fetched -- even mythical -- to some retailers. He also said implementing new programs and technology to improve customer satisfaction can cost money, but the return on investment can be enormous.
"This customer service 'stuff' certainly feels good. It's warm and fuzzy, but does it work? Will it make you money? We believe it does," Olympidis said. "We believe the experience is the single most important differentiator in the marketplace. We call the experience 'the living brand.'"
At Family Express, the living brand is defined as a workforce that is sufficiently unique by virtue of its friendliness and delivery of its genuine, from-the-heart greeting that causes a significant number of customers to make the retailer a destination over competitors. To find and develop the best employees to deliver this greeting, Family Express uses a thorough pre-employment screening program and training module.
Another fundamental of creating a living brand, Olympidis explained, is destressing the store. Family Express has invested in technology to automatically replenish stock, count cash and change prices.
"We fortified technology in order to liberate our sales associates to do what we hired them to do, which is to preserve relationships and cultivate relationships with customers and communities," said Olympidis.